Monday, March 26, 2007

TBG's 2007 Major League Baseball Preview Spectacular Grandé (Part One)

These preseason baseball features have become something of a spring staple for me. I'm pretty sure I wrote one for 411Black (don't ask) back in 2004. The following year, I took my act to Inside Pulse, where I joined forces with a pair of writers for a supersized preview to the 2006 season.

Since it's always fun to look back and see how inaccurate our picks were, I'd be remiss in not mentioning that Tom Daniels picked the Braves to win it all…and they didn't even make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Mike Hulse picked the Mets…and they went down (looking) in the NLCS. Finally, ol' ignorant Aaron picked…the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kneel before Zod, bitches.

This year, it's just me and all 30 teams ranked from worst to first, with my deadly accurate postseason predictions saved for the third and final part. And, let's begin with the opposite of Goodness:

#30 - Washington Nationals: It's a good thing that Frank Robinson was demoted from field manager to Field Negro. If he had to watch this year's squad, it would surely lead to "the big one (Elizabeth)". 3B Ryan Zimmerman and OF Austin Kearns are two terrific young pillars to build upon, however anything built upon 1B Nick Johnson will collapse on itself and be uninhabitable for 15-60 days. The pitching staff could be historically horrible, but has the benefit of playing 81 games in an extreme pitchers' park. When that's the good news, Nats fans… At least Washington has a fungible trading chip in closer Chad Cordero. An All-Star stopper on a team that's likely to lose 100 games makes about as much sense as tapioca on…wait a minute. Was I about to make an inappropriate, ill-fitting analogy right there? Christ, I'm writing like SI's Rick Reilly.

#29 - Pittsburgh Pirates: There are actually people out there who look at the Buccos offense, see a few legit boppers like 1B Adam LaRoche and OF Jason Bay, along with defending NL batting champ Freddy Sanchez at 3B 2B and think the Pirates could surprise in the NL Central (also known as the WMLB). These people are fools…fools, I tell ya. SPs Zach Duke and Ian Snell have the potential to be league average starters in 2007, but Pittsburgh has them penciled in for the top two spots in their rotation. And, is that really Salomon Torres who's listed as the closer going into this season? I thought Dusty Baker broke his brain (and arm) in the last game of the 1993 regular season. Still, the possibilities for a "Sycho (sic) Salomon" marketing campaign are too tasty to pass up. And, putting him in the high-pressure, razor-edged world of closing is sure to lead to Torres suffering an emotional breakdown no later than Memorial Day. "Laces Out!" Wrong sport, but you get the idea.

#28 - Kansas City Royals: If everything breaks right, I'll be making my very first visit to the Royals' Kauffman Stadium in early May. Call it a fringe benefit of a weeklong business trip to Wichita, Kansas…the community where diversity goes to die. I've read that the Royals' home field is one of the more underrated in the game, which is good to hear since I'll probably need to be distracted from the home team that plays on that home field. The Gil Meche signing has been beaten to death by better writers than I, so I'll just say that it'll work out better than Mark Davis while not as good as Storm Davis. 3B Alex Gordon has already been anointed AL Rookie of the Year and only 20 years after super-prospect Kevin Seitzer forced George Brett from third to first base. BTW, Seitzer's offensive peak lasted two full seasons and he was washed up by age 29. I'm just sayin'.

#27 - Baltimore Orioles: Back in 1998, Rickey Henderson and Miguel Tejada were teammates on the Oakland A's. Rickey wasn't re-signed after the season, in part, because ownership felt that his prima donna aura was rubbing off on the young, unproven Tejada. The rest of Tejada's Oaktown tenure was made to look shinier because of his MVP award in 2002, but in reality, Tejada did a lot of loafing to first on infield groundouts, took every bad at-bat into the field and was the type of player who'd get pissed if he went 0-4, while the team won 4-0. His six-year sentence to baseball's new Siberia ("Humidia"?) seems more than appropriate, no? That Leo Mazzone Magic didn't translate to the AL and this year's pitching staff looks to be equally underwhelming. Sixty combined starts from Jaret Wright ("He was good, one year!") and Steve Trachsel should ensure plenty of good seats will be available at Camden Yards all summer. That is unless new O's Aubrey Huff and Jay Payton can pack 'em in.

#26 - Cincinnati Reds: One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite albums of last year went: "Y'all n*ggaz used to be good, like Ken Griffey…". I'm old enough to remember when Griffey was a lithe fly-chaser who was the face (and backwards cap) of baseball. Today, he's a paunchy old man whom you'd half-expect to chase OFs Adam Dunn and Ryan Freel off his lawn. Now, say what you want about Marge Schott, but since MLB basically Joan of Arc'd her, the Reds have had no identity. SP Bronson Arroyo's corn-row poseur schtick in Boston turned into "anonymous workhorse" in Cincy. The Nasty Boys bullpen of the early '90s has gave way to the remains of Mike Stanton and Rheal Cormier. And, what the hell is Jeff Conine doing here? Why do we have to wait until July for him to get traded back to Florida for the 50th time?

#25 - Seattle Mariners: 10 years ago, the M's were one of the most exciting teams in the American League led by Griffey the Kid's 56 HRs and 20 wins from the Unit. Five years ago, Seattle was coming off a 116-win season and finished 3rd in the AL West…with 93 wins. Today, there is no Super Nintendo game featuring free agent OF Jose Guillen and LHP Jarrod Washburn hasn't won 20 games in the last two years combined. There's still reason for hope, though. For one, the AL West features four flawed teams who could finish anywhere from first to last. Secondly, the M's offense could be solid with Ichiro in his walk year, Adrian Beltre coming off a strong second half in '06 and Raul Ibañez continuing his surprising senior citizen run. Finally, 21-year-old phenom, King Felix Hernandez, seems ready to join the AL's elite on the mound. He'll need to make 80 starts to get Seattle to the postseason.

#24 - Colorado Rockies: In this year's always-excellent Sports Illustrated baseball preview, the section on the Rox devotes most of its words to 2B Kaz Matsui. The former New York Met mistake got white-hot for 126 plate appearances (mostly in September) and put up a .345/.392/.504 line. C'mon, SI…you're better than that. Matsui won't be part of the next good Rockies team (OK, the first good Rockies team), but the pieces are in place for the squad to make a run…and soon. Phenom SS Troy Tulowitzki could break out this year, while 3B Garrett Atkins and LF Matt Holliday already have. 1B Todd Helton is getting old before our eyes, but could fetch a nice late July haul on the trade market if he stays healthy until then. Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis lead a rotation that doesn't miss enough bats, while I double dog dare Brian Fuentes to save 30 games, ever again. The kids are a'comin', though, as the memories of Dale Murphy and David Nied get dimmer every day.

#23 - Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Five years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl (by forfeit) and turned around a losing tradition that took up over two decades. The Devil Rays are beginning only their 10th year of terribility, but they've just been keeping the cellar warm for the Orioles. Maybe I've got a soft spot for a team that's cornered the market on immature misunderstood minorities. OF Delmon Young throws bats at umpires, OF Elijah Dukes poisoned his minor league clubhouse and little old ladies cross the street whenever UT B.J. Upton is coming towards them. Tragically, there's not enough pitching behind Scott Kazmir for any hopes of unseating Hitler and Hussein atop the AL East, but the Rays have something now that they've lacked in every year since their inception: hope. (Yeah, I know…but, there'd be a tear in your eye if Peter Gammons had written that last line.)

#22 - Florida Marlins: As a fan of a team whose supporters don't exactly tear down the turnstiles, I can sympathize with the lack of local love for a young, exciting club. On the other hand, the Marlins have won two more world titles in their tenure (since 1993) than my A's and currently have the chips in place for a sustained run of contention in another year or so. So, c'mon, South Florida…three hours in a steam bath of a stadium is worth it to get in on the ground floor of something special. SP Dontrelle Willis gives you guys the new ace of the Willie McGee All-Ugly All-Stars, while SP Anibal Sanchez threw a no-hitter last year and is the best pitcher with a girl's name since Ariel Prieto swam ashore. 3B Miguel Cabrera's got a few more years before he abandons your team for one in a city "with a better school system" or some such hogwash. 81-81 seems to be a reasonable goal for a team that will likely take an '06 Indians step back this year, but watch out in '08! Or '09…

#21 - Houston Astros: $100 million for free agent OF Chunky Lee? The Cubs, Cards and Brewers thank you, GM Purpura. I guess Lee replaces what Jeff Bagwell's bat used to be 10 years ago, but see, here's the thing: in 1997 the Astros' pitching staff posted a team ERA of 3.67. The starters back then were Mike Hampton, Darryl Kile, Shane Reynolds(!) and Chris Holt(!!) Hell, even Sid Fernandez(!!!) won his only start for the 'Stros that year. The point in 2007 is that this year's Houston rotation doesn't have anyone like Reynolds or Holt at the back end. Ace Roy Oswalt will again bring the goodness, but he's thrown a ton of innings since 2004 and his 4'4" frame can't be expected to keep bouncing back. In addition, last year, closer Brad Lidge went "boom" with a nifty 5.28 ERA. Sorry, Houston, but y'all have exactly two storylines to look forward to this year: when will 2B Craig Biggio get the 70 hits he needs for 3,000 and will C Brad Ausmus and SS Adam Everett get 70 hits between 'em all season? Sucks to be you (and you have to live in Houston).


that mexican guy said...

Are you still in denial about the Tampa Bay/Oakland Super Bowl from five years ago? Look at it this way: *someone* had to be the team to end 25 years of futility in Tampa. Your Raiders are a part of history. Soldier on, Raider Nation, soldier on.

mathan said...

411Black? Nice.

Good times. Good times.

castro said...

Just curious, but what was the final tally on the number of free agent signees that you were "deadly accurate" on in that feature you did back in November?

Two? Three? Out of 50?!

Carry on, Cam. We still love ya.

ron mexico said...

First off an answer to Castro's question please.

#2 The Miguel Tejada grudge. Let it go. He moved on. You should too.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Free agent feature scorecard will be up by Opening Day. I think you'll all be pleasantly surprised by how well I did. Pleasantly surprised.